What causes fungus on the scalp? Is scalp ringworm similar to scalp yeast infection? Can scalp fungus shampoo treat yeast infection?  Get more insight on causes, signs and symptoms, effect on toddlers, hair loss and how to treat the scalp condition.

Fungus on Scalp Causes

Colonization of scalp by fungus or appearances of ringworms are caused by:

fungus on scalp

fungus on scalp

  1. Human to human

Ringworm often spreads through direct skin-to-skin contact with an infected person. Therefore, according to studies, it is recommended not coming into contact with any person who has developed ringworms maybe on his or her head or body.

  1. Object to human

Ringworm can spread through contact with objects or surfaces that an infected person or animal has touched, such as clothing, towels, bed linens, combs or brushes. In cases whereby you would wish to use combs or brushes, it is better to sterilize them before use.

  1. Animal to human

These usually refer to the pets we keep at our homes, especially puppies and kittens, are often carriers of ringworm. Other animals that are often carriers of the fungi include cows, goats, pigs and horses. Your child can contract ringworm by grooming or petting an animal with ringworm.

Other forms of ringworms include:

  • Ringworm of the body (tinea corporis). This form causes a red, scaly ring or circle of rash on the top layer of your skin.
  • Athlete’s foot (tinea pedis). This form of ringworm affects the moist areas between your toes and sometimes on the foot itself.
  • Jock itch (tinea cruris). This form affects your genitals, inner upper thighs and buttocks.

Fungus on Scalp Symptoms

They are characterized by:

  1. Commonly, the infection just looks like severe dandruff on various places on the scalp. This may be mistaken for psoriasis.
  2. Some infections cause patches of hair loss (bald patches) to develop. The bald patches are usually inflamed and very scaly. Small broken-off hairs may remain scattered in the bald patches.
  3. In some cases, several painful boils (pustules) develop on the scalp.
  4. A more severe infection develops in a small number of cases. This causes a large ‘boggy’ swelling in a section of the scalp, called a kerion. This can be oozing and tender and, if not treated early, can cause permanent scarring and hair loss.
  5. If you have a severe infection, such as a kerion or pustules, you may develop a high temperature (fever) and the glands in the neck may swell.

In addition, often this fungus on the scalp is localized to specific parts of the body:

  • Scalp and beard

They start as a small pimple which spreads outwards, leaving a scaly hairless patch. Infected hairs become brittle and break off easily.

  • Toenails and fingernails

This infection typically attacks most of the toenails and fingernails but most often the feet. The nail gradually thickens, becomes discolored (white or yellowish) and brittle. Cheesy material forms beneath the nail or the nail becomes chalky and disintegrates.

  • Skin

It occurs as a flat, spreading ring-shaped lesion. The edge is usually reddened and may be dry and scaly or moist and crusted. The center of the patch may appear to be normal skin.

  • Foot – tinea and athlete’s foot

Appears as scaling or cracking of the skin, especially between the toes. It is often very itchy.

What Does Fungus on Scalp Look Like

Scalp ringworm (tinea capitis) is a common mild infection of the scalp and hair that appears as scaly spots and patches of broken hair on the head. Though several different types of fungus may cause scalp ringworm, they are generally known as dermatophytes.yeast like fungus on scalp

The pictures in the article help us to understand the common location of the fungal infection on the scalp and how it looks like. Through this pictures, one is able to identify the symptoms easily and the seek for medication.

Fungus on Scalp Toddlers

Fungus on the scalp is a contagious fungal infection of the skin that appears as a ring-like rash. It has nothing to do with worms.

Ringworm can be itchy, but it’s not painful or dangerous. It’s the same fungus that causes athlete’s foot, and is common in children.

If the child has ringworm, he or she will have a rash that consists of one or several red rings on his or her chest, stomach, thighs or back. The rings will be crusty or scaly on the outside, and smooth in the middle, and will feel itchy. As the fungus grows, the rings get larger.

Ringworm may also affect a child’s scalp, usually appears as dandruff or bald spots. It can be dry and crusty, or moist and filled with pus. It is easy to confuse ringworm with dandruff. See what ringworm looks like in our rashes and skin conditions gallery.

Follow these hygiene measures to help remove the ringworm fungus from around your house:

  • Gently wash and dry the areas of ringworm on your child’s body. Take care with the areas between the toes and skin folds, and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.
  • Wash your hands after applying antifungal cream or shampoo to your child’s skin.
  • Keep your child’s towels, sheets, clothes, hairbrush, and toys separate. Wash them frequently to remove ringworm fungus.
  • Dress your child in loose-fitting cotton clothes that cover her arms and legs.
  • Keep your child’s fingernails short to prevent her from scratching and spreading the infection to other parts of her body.

Fungus on Scalp Causing Dandruff

Appearances of dandruff on your scalp create a condition that might be embarrassing, causing flakes of skin to appear in the hair and fall onto clothes. Dandruff is a common condition characterized by itching, and in some cases is not easy to treat.

The following are the typical culprits that cause fungus on the scalp resulting to dandruff:

  1. Seborrheic Dermatitis

This is a common condition that causes oily skin, and people with it are very prone to dandruff. This can also affect many areas of the skin, including the backs of the ears, the breastbone, eyebrows, and the sides of the nose and anywhere where skin folds together, such as the armpits.

Fungus on the scalp causes red, greasy skin that’s covered with flaky white or yellow scales.

  1. Fungus (Malassezia)

Malassezia is a fungus that lives on everyone’s scalp, and typically causes no issues at all, but it can grow out of control. It feeds on the oils our hair follicles secrete, then causes the scalp can become irritated and produce extra skin cells.fungus on the scalp

These extra skin cells die and fall off, then mixes with the oil on the hair and scalp. Reddish, scaly plaques may also appear in the eyebrows, on the forehead, in the ear canal, on the folds of skin that extend from the nostril to the lips. Although the skin affected may feel and look dry, this is not the case.

These two issues are thought to be interlinked, as the presence of the fungus on skin may provoke an abnormal response from the immune system, which can then cause skin to become oily. Then the oiliness of the skin encourages more growth of the fungus, which then triggers dandruff.

  1. Yeast infection

People who are sensitive to yeast have a slightly higher risk of having dandruff. These yeast-sensitive people find that it gets better during the warmer months and worse during the winter. UVA light from the sun counteracts the yeast.

The skin is drier due to cold air and overheated rooms during the winter, making dandruff more likely. So, it is sometimes not that easy to know whether it is yeast or just dry skin.

  1. Diet

Certain foods in your daily diet might be the cause of your dandruff problem. From food allergies to nutritional deficiencies, there are many potential diet-related causes of dandruff.

Some experts say that people who do not consume enough foods that contain zinc, B vitamins, and some types of fats are more prone to dandruff.

  1. Certain Skin Conditions

People with psoriasis, eczema and other skin disorders tend to get dandruff much more frequently than other people.

Other conditions like the cold winter air, combined with overheated rooms is a common cause of dandruff because it creates dry skin that presents itself as small flakes of dandruff, which are not oily.

  1. Allergic contact dermatitis

This a reaction to products used on the scalp, such as hair dye, hairspray, hair gel or mousse and they can make the fungus on the scalp to appear flaky in most instances.

  • Dandruff in toddlers

Children can sometimes have dandruff and yellow, greasy, scaly patches on their scalp which is known as cradle cap.

Cradle cap appears most often in babies in the first two months. It tends to last only a few weeks or months.

Gently washing your baby’s hair and scalp with baby shampoo can help prevent a build-up of scales. Massaging baby oil or natural oil, such as olive oil, into their scalp at night can help loosen the crust.

Fungus on Scalp Hair Loss

The following are types of fungal infection on scalp that may lead to hair loss:

  1. Dermatophytes

It directly invades the hair where they can inhabit the scalp and grow. Their ability to inhabit and grow on the hair can be demonstrated by the hair bait technique.

Some Dermatophytes can also produce perforating organs in the hair shaft. Other form of dermatophytes may include:

  • Tinea Capitis

It is the most common fungal infection of the scalp, which is also called ringworms. Though the condition usually attacks children between 5-10 years, it is present across all age sets, especially in males.

Note: The disease easily spreads when one has physical contact with an infected person, especially contact with the hair.

  1. Malassezia Infections

It is caused by fungi known as Malassezia spp. This form of fungus on the scalp may result into hair loss when they invade the scalp and it has similar features as seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp. The main fungal condition in this category is pityriasis capitis, commonly known as dandruff.

  1. Pityriasis Capitis

According to numerous authoritative sites and studies, they suggest M. globosa is the most common pathogen responsible for pityriasis capitis.

Dandruff manifests itself as itchy, reddish brown patches on the scalp. Though the condition affects both sexes, it’s more prevalent in men and usually attacks them soon after puberty.

  1. Piedra

It is characterized by black and white nodules located near the base of the hair follicles. In serious cases, the hair breaks into small bits.

It has been classified into tropical condition where they do occur such as Black piedra which thrives best in tropical conditions while white piedra thrives in areas where there is more lipids. Unlike black piedra, white piedra can attack other haired areas of the body, not just the scalp.

Fungus on Scalp Itchy

According to Dr. Fayne L. Frey, a NYC-based dermatologist with over 20 years of experience suggested the following causes of fungus on the scalp that are itchy and some happen to be a chronic scalp condition. They include:

  1. Mycotic Diseases

This is a condition caused by either funguses or yeasts-run-amok. This yeast that attack the scalp is also known as malassezia which studies suggest that they are lipid-dependent yeast. When they appear on your scalp, they may result to a severe itching and reddening of the affected area.

  1. Dandruff

Did you know that up to 50 percent of the population experiences dandruff? These do not matter with age since it begins from adolescence to about age 50, when the sebaceous glands are most active.

It presents itself as fine white or gray scales that are found diffusely in the scalp, typically accompanied by an itching sensation.

  1. Seborrheic Dermatitis

According to studies, it can even go beyond the age of 50 and it is usually chronic in nature and it can also reoccur after being treated over time.

Red patches with large, yellow, greasy scales that may form crusts commonly occur in the scalp, on the face , eyebrows, nasolabial folds, and eyelid margins, ears, armpits, groin, and mid-chest

Frey says that mild itching is common and that this particular form of itchy scalp is prevalent in people with compromised immune system and even in patients with neurological illnesses.

  1. Tinea Capitis

The fungal organisms of tinea capitis or fungus on the scalp may affect the hair, while others infect the follical, explains Frey. It is most commonly seen in pre-pubescents, but anyone may fall prey to the ringworm.

It is spread by contact with people, animals, and found in soil. Sharing pillows, hairbrushes, and clothing may spread the condition. There are both inflammatory (with pustules and abscesses, lymph node swelling) and non-inflammatory (round patches of hair loss with fine scaling) infections.

  1. Parasitic Conditions

Frey says those parasitic conditions are most commonly seen in school-age children and that the form that emerges most often is, of course, lice and their eggs. It may also result into itching when they move along the hair follicles

  1. Inflammatory Conditions due to fungus on the scalp

The most common cause of inflammatory scalp itching is psoriasis, a chronic, recurring condition that affects two percent of the population. It is more prevalent in red areas with silver-gray scaly patches that may appear anywhere on the scalp, but especially along the hairline.

Fungus on Scalp Itchy Lump behind Ear

This is made up of dead skin cells and oil produced by oil glands in the skin. The oil gland is called sebaceous gland hence the name is related to the cyst.

fungal scalp infection

fungal scalp infection

The cyst behind ear may not be connecting to cancer but they come due to potential complications or bacterial infection due to hair products. Regardless of the specific area where the cyst may be on the body, they can be infected.

In some cases, the cyst can rupture hence allowing bacterial infection. For instance, if it is a genital sebaceous cyst and it ruptures, it can cause pain during urination and painful intercourse.

It is very rare but in some cases cyst can be a symptom of cancer attack but it be due spread of fungal infection from the scalp.

Yeast Like Fungus on Scalp

Yeast infections appears when the fungus Candida albicans grows rapidly anywhere on the body from the mucus membranes of the oral cavity, under the nails, on the scalp, in the pelvic area or any other areas of the skin, especially where it can be moist.

Candida is found normally on the body, but bacteria and other normal inhabitants usually keep fungal growth in check.

However, if the balance of these organisms is altered, Candida can multiply, resulting in overgrowth and potentially severe medical concerns, especially when yeast gets into the blood or lungs.

Fungus on Scalp Treatment

Some of the natural treatment includes:

  1. Apple Cider Vinegar For Hair Fungus

It contains potent antifungal compounds that will kill the fungus and treat the infection. The antioxidants present will aid speedy recovery of the skin.

Steps to follow on treating fungus on the scalp:

  • Add the vinegar to the water and mix well.
  • Rinse the hair with this mixture before applying shampoo.
  1. Neem Oil For Hair Fungus

When it comes to hair fungus, the neem oil will effectively kill the fungus and relieve itching and hair fall issues since it contains antimicrobial properties.

Steps to follow on treating fungus on the scalp:

  • Mix the neem and coconut oils.
  • Apply the mixture on the scalp and also on the hair.
  • Leave it on overnight.
  • Rinse the hair and scalp in the morning as usual.
  1. Castor Oil For Hair Fungus

It possesses antifungal properties that will kill the fungi. It is also a good skin conditioner and will help relieve the symptoms of the infection.

Steps to follow on treating fungus on the scalp:

  • Dip the cotton in the oil and apply it all over the infected area.
  • Let the oil sit for at least one hour. Then, rinse the hair thoroughly with cool water.
  • Blows dry the hair as the fungus grows rapidly in wet surroundings and can be contagious.
  1. Garlic For Hair Fungus

It contains a strong antifungal compound called allicin. This compound eliminates the infection, especially if the fungus is Candida. The honey aids the garlic in its antifungal activity. It also soothes the skin and reduces any swelling with its anti-inflammatory properties.

Steps to follow:

  • Crush the garlic cloves and let them sit for 10-15 minutes.
  • To this, add the honey and mix well.
  • Apply this mixture generously on the scalp and massage for a minute or two.
  • Leave the hair pack on for about 10 minutes and then rinse with water.
  • Rinse with a shampoo to remove the hair pack thoroughly.
  1. Listerine For Hair Fungus

This commonly used product has a wide range of antimicrobial properties. Its key components eucalyptol, thymol, and menthol kill the fungus and treat the infection and its associated symptoms.

Steps to follow on treating fungus on the scalp:

  • Rinse the hair as usual with shampoo and wash off all the shampoo thoroughly.
  • Remove all excess water from your hair.
  • In a bowl or cup, mix Listerine and warm water, and pour this over your scalp.
  • Gently massage the scalp for a minute or two.
  • Rinse hair with lukewarm water first and then with cool water.
  • Air dry or blows dry the hair.
  1. Lemon For Hair Fungus

The acids present in lemon act as antifungal agents for the hair fungus. Apart from treating the infection, lemon also kills any other microorganisms that may be causing damage to your scalp and hair. It also imparts a natural shine to your hair.

  • Steps to follow on treating fungus on the scalp:
  • Add the lemon juice to the warm water and use this as a final rinse after washing your hair.
  • Follow this up with a cool water rinse to close the pores on your scalp.
  1. Coconut Oil For Hair Fungus

It contains fatty acids, such as lauric acid, that have antimicrobial properties. Applying it regularly on the scalp will treat the fungal infection in just a few weeks. Coconut oil nourishes and moisturizes your skin, and this makes your hair healthier. It also protects the hair from damage.

Steps to follow:

  • Apply coconut oil properly on the scalp and hair.
  • Massage for a couple of minutes and leave the oil on overnight.
  • Rinse as usual in the morning.


  1. Dandruff: http://www.seniormag.com/conditions/skindisorders/
  2. Itchy Scalp – Pictures, Causes and Treatment: http://www.healthhype.com/itchy-scalp-causes-and-treatment.html
  3. Trichomycoses: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2938571/
  4. Home Remedies To Cure Hair Fungus Naturally: http://www.stylecraze.com/articles/home-remedies-to-cure-hair-fungus/#gref
  5. Scalp Fungus Overview: http://health.howstuffworks.com/skin-care/scalp-care/problems/scalp-fungus2.htm